Experience is a valuable resource that the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU is rich in. Even with many faculty members willing to share their experiences with up and coming leaders, it can be challenging for students to tap into this resource. In an effort to close the loop between experienced professionals and interested students, the CAS Leadership Academy has made mentorship a key component of the year-long leadership development program for the last eight years. During this time, more than 50 faculty members have volunteered to be mentors to the 125 graduates of the Leadership Academy.

This year there are 26 fellows in the Leadership Academy who are each individually paired with a faculty mentor. Throughout fall term, Leadership Academy fellows met with their mentors to discuss a variety of topics of the students’ choosing. One current Academy fellow describes the mentorship experience as a “great way to have an ‘in’ on conversations I already want to have.” For four current Leadership Academy fellows, their mentors have already helped them navigate the many opportunities available to students, work towards achieving professional goals, and share stories of personal experience that help provide a relatable perspective and useful strategies in a friendly manner.

For Chandra Maki, a Junior studying Crop and Soil Science, every time she meets with her mentor, she receives new information about opportunities available to students in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Additionally, her mentor Rus Karow also helps narrow down the lengthy list of opportunities to the ones that will be most beneficial to Chandra in her future career. Chandra says, “Things can be overwhelming as a student…but, the mentors in Leadership Academy give extra help to point students in the right direction.” In addition to helping find opportunities to benefit fellows in their future careers, mentors also help students prepare for interviews.

Jakelyn Santa Cruz-Enriquez, a Junior studying Agricultural Business Management, is thankful for her bimonthly meetings with her mentor, Dr. Penny Diebel. For Jakelyn, building a relationship with her mentor has also resulted in the expansion of her professional network to include professionals that her mentor knows. Jakelyn explained, “Recently, I had an internship interview with Northwest Farm Credit Services. Thanks in part to Penny’s help connecting me with the right individual, I was able to attain the internship.” Jakelyn also says that she enjoys meeting with her mentor because it gives her a “personal relationship with a professional.” This personal connection is an important part of the mentorship experience for Leadership Academy fellows. At times, it can seem as though these experienced professionals were always highly skilled at their work. However, it is nice to know that they too had to grow their leadership skills.

For Jonathan Lopez-Valadez, a Senior studying Agricultural Sciences, prior to being in the Leadership Academy, he thought “only a certain kind of individual with the best work ethic and highest devotion to their goals, would reach the top of the ladder.” However, thanks to open conversations with his mentor, Dr. Bill Braunworth, Jonathan has learned that “everyone goes through the trials and tribulations of trying to get where they want to be in life” and, even with decades of experience, at times his mentor still experiences challenging work tasks. Dr. Braunworth has taught Jonathan that a willingness to learn, positive attitude, and ability to self-reflect are all critical components of professional development. Jonathan says that it is a relief to learn the strategies that his mentor has utilized throughout his career. The lessons Jonathan has learned from his mentor are ones he will reflect on as he works through his own professional challenges. It is through these relatable connections that fellows are able to also learn a wide variety of leadership strategies and apply them to their own professional growth.

Ruben Lopez-Carrillo, a Sophomore studying Animal Science, said that from his very first meeting with his mentor Dr. Dan Edge, they started talking as if they “knew each other from before” and have continued to connect well ever since. Ruben says that during their three mentor meetings in fall term, he brought questions to Dr. Edge from his daily routine that reflected on his leadership. Ruben says that his mentor “always answers in the best way possible” and he sees Dr. Edge not only as a mentor, “but also as a friend.” Overall, Ruben says that he really enjoys the mentorship component of the Leadership Academy because “it gives students different perspectives to how other leaders lead.”

Even after only one term of being paired with their mentors, the current fellows are already very grateful for the wealth of experience their mentors have shared. On November 28, 2018, each fellow recognized their mentor at the Leadership Academy’s annual Mentor Social. As each fellow thanked their mentor, it was easy to hear how much the fellows value the time their mentors are volunteering to share their leadership experience. The outstanding faculty in College of Agricultural Sciences are truly a valuable resource to the next generation of agricultural leaders.

To find out more about the CAS Leadership Academy and follow along with updates throughout the year, visit our website and follow us on Facebook.